It is a fine line between horror and comedy, a concept local theaters take to heart this season as Halloween nears. This year, more than ever, there is a focus on the creepy and the shrieky. Some of these shows are safe for your kids; others are definitely adult-only fare.
"The Halloween Show"
Oct. 26 to Nov. 5 (with a performance on Oct. 31) at The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave.; $25 at 773-283-7071.
"What is fear?" is the question and inspiration for this collection of short scenes created by the ensemble. Creepy classic selections from Samuel Beckett, Edgar Allan Poe and William Blake also will be adapted and performed..
WHO'S IT FOR: According to cast member Mike Thornton, "People interested in doing something a little different for Halloween, who can appreciate highbrow and lowbrow. Screamers. Jumpers." Not for kids.
FUNNY OR SCARY: Thornton says both. "Often at the same time."
GORE FACTOR: "We're still creating that," says Thornton, "but I think I can promise you a bathtub full."
Through Nov. 4 (with performances Oct. 30 and Oct. 31) at Annoyance Theatre, 4840 N. Broadway; $13 at 773-561-4665.
A remount of the company's 1987 spoof of bloody slasher flicks, featuring cliched horror movie characters--the high school jock, the virgin, the class jerk, the bimbo--killed in various creatively disgusting ways.
WHO'S IT FOR: "I would say anybody who has enjoyed a slasher film," says Annoyance owner Jennifer Estlin. Age 16 and over.
FUNNY OR SCARY: "It's mostly funny, and scary along the lines of shocking scary. You'll see about 12 deaths occur on stage, and some of them get pretty gory. It's not that you'll be scared, but you won't believe it gets that gory."
GORE FACTOR: "The stage blood is a special recipe that [director] Mick Napier developed through trial and error. We probably use around 3 gallons a show." It's a nightmare to clean up, she says, although this year the cast is excited because the theater has a shower, versus a small sink used in previous years.
Through Oct. 31 at Oracle Theatre, 3809 N. Broadway; $6-$8 at 773-244-2980.
A 15-minute, multimedia installation that is similar to a haunted house. Audience members are herded into a pitch-black room that seemingly has no exits. The multisensory experience is meant to "scare the life back into people." Vignettes depict stalking and serial murder.
WHO'S IT FOR: Adults "who want a different haunted house, to see a blurred line between horror flicks and the real-life situations they depict," says show creator Brad Jayhan-Little.
FUNNY OR SCARY: Scary. "Very not funny," says Jayhan-Little. "Really it's quite disturbing."
GORE FACTOR: Knives, guns, crowbars, rope and more than a gallon of blood.
"The Midnight Hellhouse"
Through Oct. 27 at Playground Theater, 3209 N. Halsted St.; $10 at 773-655-7756.
Inspired by the "alternative" haunted house performed annually by the Assemblies of God Trinity Church in which vignettes of rape, abortion, AIDS and suicide are meant to portray the judgment of God. (The church in Cedar Hills, Texas, is the subject of the 2001 documentary film, "Hell House.")
WHO'S IT FOR: "Anyone with a strong stomach, a sense of irony, and who finds [this year's movie] `Jesus Camp' to be the creepiest thing ever," says spokesman Don Hall. Not for kids.
FUNNY OR SCARY: "This is dark humor," Hall says. "I mean dark. Only the sickest people will find any of this funny. Needless to say it completely cracks me up. It is scary because it cleaves close to the bone and is not that far off from the real thing in Texas."
GORE FACTOR: "Several abortions, a rape and a severe homophobic beating amount to at least two gallons of stage blood per night," Hall says. "It takes the cast two hours to clean the place up after."
Through Oct. 28 (with a performance on Oct. 31) at Angel Island Theatre 731 W. Sheridan Rd.; $10-$15 at 312-281-8041.
Collision Theatre stages a musical adaptation of the Bram Stoker classic about the infamous vampire. Spokesman Seth Unger says it's "haunting and sexy."
WHO'S IT FOR: "People who like risky theater and want to be entertained." Adults only, with partial nudity and violent themes.
FUNNY OR SCARY: "We are exploring both sides of the spectrum: intensely scary themes and also how to laugh at that intense-ness."
GORE FACTOR: "Tons and tons of goofy props. We use the fake blood sparingly--only when Dracula bites."
"Say You Love Satan"
Through Nov. 19 at the Victory Gardens Greenhouse, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave.; $30-$45 at 773-871-3000.
About Face Theatre stages this new play from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (who also writes "The Fantastic Four" and "Spiderman" for Marvel Comics) about a guy who falls in love with the Son of Satan, a man who also happens to be a big fan of the television show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
WHO'S IT FOR: Intended for a gay audience, says spokeswoman Jill Rosen, but also for "horror-comedy and Buffy fans everywhere." Not for kids.
FUNNY OR SCARY: "It's absolutely funny," says Rosen.
GORE FACTOR: None, though there is a cadaver (played by an actor).
Through Oct. 22 at Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle; $12-$15 at 630-725-2066.
The Mary Shelley classic gets an outdoor setting for this Theatre Hikes production. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes. The scenes take place over a mile of trail.
Director Adam Webster says the "play has a macabre feel to it, from the dour Dr. Frankenstein ... to the towering giant stitched together from old parts."
WHO'S IT FOR: Webster says the audience is families with kids age 8 and over "and couples up for a unique date. Arty-outdoor types."
FUNNY OR SCARY: "The script is alternately funny and scary. A few of the exchanges between Victor and his Mother ring of universal familial discord, which provide [comic] relief from the scientific and moral debates. ... And then some of the scenes with the Creature, when he gets angry or vengeful, end up quite terrifying."
GORE FACTOR: "We don't have any goopy props, but we do have a fake hand."
"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"
Through Nov. 5 at Noble Horse Theatre, 1410 N. Orleans St.; $16-$48 at 312-266-7878.
The tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman in Washington Irving's classic is performed entirely on horseback with music, sword-fighting, fog, a witch with flaming torches, Cossack trick riders, and a voice-over explaining the story.
WHO'S IT FOR: Families, senior groups, school groups and couples looking for a different kind of date night. Kids age 5 and over.
FUNNY OR SCARY: "It's just scary enough without people worrying about children having bad dreams," says spokeswoman Karen Lydecker.
GORE FACTOR: None.
Oct. 28 at the Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; $9-$46 at 312-294-3000.
The Civic Orchestra of Chicago performs a special matinee concert of "spine-tingling" music--such as Saint-Saens "Danse Macabre," which is featured in many scary movies and haunted houses--that will accompany the screening of the Buster Keaton silent film, "The Haunted House." Also musical selections from "Pirates of the Caribbean."
WHO'S IT FOR: Families and anyone who is a fan of creepy music. Kids age 5 and over, with pre-concert Halloween games and crafts.
FUNNY OR SCARY: "The performance is more funny than scary, especially with the silent film overhead. But both kooky and spooky," says CSO spokesman Marc van Bree.
GORE FACTOR: None.
Oct. 31 at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights; $50 (includes dinner) at 847-577-2121.
Interactive dinner theater, complete with a murder to go with your salad and chicken.
WHO'S IT FOR: Primarily adults and parents who aren't involved in trick-or-treating anymore. Not for kids.
FUNNY OR SCARY: "They're definitely going for funny more than scary," says spokesman Jay Kelly.
GORE FACTOR: No one wants to ruin your appetite, so that's a safe no.
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